The Mediterranean diet is a nutritional dietary model of Greece, Spain and Southern Italy. Olive oil is the primary source of fat in the Mediterranean diet, along with wine and holds the exclusivity in this particular diet.
Dr. Ancel Keys in the early 1950s figured out that the death rate, due to heart disease, in the Mediterranean region was excessively low. The Mediterranean diet became very popular in the North America region in the 1990s and the Mediterranean foods, especially the olive oil started to gain ground rapidly.
The Mediterranean region has many cultures with different habits and health, but with a common dietary pattern, very rich in antioxidants. High blood pressure and high cholesterol levels are the key risk factors for heart disease. The Mediterranean diet, high in unsaturated fatty acids and low in saturated fat content, seems to be protective against heart disease.
The people in the Mediterranean region consume a lot of fat, compared to the people in the North European region, but the biggest percentage of the fat is mono-unsaturated fatty acid, particularly oleic acid from olive oil and omega-3 fatty acid from fish, which protect from heart disease, colon and breast cancers.
Olive oil and wine are products of the Mediterranean region and both are obtained with natural processes, which allows them to maintain their health properties. The best olive oil is the extra virgin olive oil, with a very high amount of phenolics, which supply the strong taste. Phenolics are phyto-chemicals which are very powerful antioxidants, that boost the immune system.
Phyto-chemicals are also contained in wine. Wine contains flavonoids with powerful antioxidant properties. Wine used in moderation, protects against heart disease, but excessive use has harmful effects on human health.
Analysis on the different Mediterranean diets shows that all include a moderate consumption of wine, dairy products such as yogurt and cheese, poultry, fish, with a small amount of red meat, lots of greens and olive oil.